The North Vancouver School District has managed to nip and tuck its way to a balanced budget for next year. But that hasn’t come without sacrifices, said John Lewis, superintendent of schools.
On May 26, the board of education passed its $166-million budget for the 2015/16 school year, which includes a $144.7-million operating budget for a student population of about 15,140.
The school board balanced its books without making significant program cuts despite being ordered by the province to find “administrative savings” in reduced costs or increased revenues of about $760,000 in its budget.
To do that, the school district used $1.9 million of the $4.9-million surplus that its managed to save by making difficult decisions over the previous five years.
“Effectively we’re doing more with less. We’ve been doing that year after year,” said Lewis.
“Financially you can balance it,” he said, but added, “There’s a human cost to the reductions.”
Over the past five years, the school district has cut about $9 million out of its annual budget, said Lewis, through measures like closing some schools, consolidating alternate school programs, reducing staff, increasing Spring Break from one week to two and axing continuing education.
Other smaller penny-pinching measures have come from items like switching to more energy efficient heating and lighting systems and taking out land phone lines in schools in favour of using voice-over Internet systems.
Unlike other recent years, there were no decisions to chop or dramatically change programs in this year’s budget.
The school district will pay about $124.5 million for instruction in the next year (which includes the cost of the teachers’ contract settlement), up from $118 million this year (which was reduced about $3.7 million from a regular figure because of the strike in September). The district will also pay about $15 million on operations and maintenance and just under $5 million on administration.
The school district is anticipating boosting its coffers by about $200,000 by adding more international students next year.
Revenue from special sports academies will also contribute close to $1 million in revenues — almost double last year’s amount.
Revenues for the school district’s outdoor school near Squamish, now known as the Cheakamus Centre, are also projected to be up — to more than $2 million.
That puts it almost at the break-even point, secretary treasurer Georgia Allison told the board.
Two years ago, the school district laid off eight union support staff and 13 more casual staff at the Squamish-based campus and turned over management of the site to a private company on a bid to cut down on the $500,000 annual loss the school was causing.
The school district also expects to halve its debt servicing costs next year after it pays back its $6.3-million debt borrowed for previous capital projects.